What Should You Do If You Get Stung by a Bee or Wasp

Anaphylaxis

Bee stings and wasp stings can be extremely painful and cause significant swelling. For some people, the stings from bees and wasps are a painful annoyance, and for others the stings can cause a life threatening reaction called anaphylaxis, or anaphylactic shock.

I got stung by a paper wasp on my toe several days ago. The pain was extreme and lasted for hours. As the hours passed the pain settled a bit, and would come back with a vengeance for an instant and subside. I went to bed after 6 hours with this kind of pain. When I awoke the next morning I had a terribly red, swollen and itchy toe. It has been 5 days and it is still red and itching. The wasp sting I got was much more painful than any bee sting I have ever received.

Symptoms of bee and wasp stings

  • Pain
  • Burning sensation
  • Blister formation (in some cases)
  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Headache

Treatment options for bee or wasp stings

If you get stung by a bee, the bee is probably going to leave its stinger at the sting site. You will need to remove the stinger. You can remove the stinger by scraping the area with the blade of a knife. The stinger should come out as you scrape. If you get stung by a wasp, it won’t leave its stinger.

The pain will be intense; an ice pack will help relieve some of the pain and swelling. You can use a frozen bag of peas or corn as an ice pack, or put some ice cubes in a Zip-lock bag. Place the ice pack into a pillowcase or thin towel before applying it to the area of the sting. The ice will constrict the blood vessels in the area and help to reduce some of the body’s reaction to the sting.

Clean the area of the sting with soap and water and apply an antibiotic ointment. Most bee and wasp stings don’t require medical care.

In cases of wasp stings, the area may be extremely painful for more than an hour and slowly subside. The site may remain red, swollen and itchy for 4 or more days. Inspect the area daily; it’s important to keep the area clean and dry to prevent a possible avenue for infection.

A bee or wasp sting that has begun to itch can be miserable. An antihistamine, Benadryl can be effective to relieve that terrible itch. A wasp sting may itch for days; therefore, you may want to ask your doctor if you can take an antihistamine as needed for itch.

If it has been 10 or more years since you have gotten a tetanus shot, your doctor may want you to get a tetanus booster shot.

Conclusion

If you get stung and you have any difficulty talking or breathing, or you feel like your tongue is swelling or your throat is closing get medical help immediately. Don’t panic. Call 911. If you have been determined to be allergic, your doctor will prescribe an emergency dose of epinephrine, which is called an EpiPenĀ®.

If your localized reaction (swelling and redness) to a bee or wasp sting is greater than 10 inches, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. If you have a fever, or there is increasing pain, swelling or drainage from the area of the sting, there could be an infection. Your doctor will need to treat you for this.

You should see a doctor if you get stung on the inside of your mouth or in your throat. This is more likely to happen with children. A bee sting inside of the mouth could cause your throat to swell up and breathing could become difficult. Even if there is no anaphylaxis, a sting in the mouth could be more serious than a sting on the hand, foot or other part of the body.